Tag Archives: career

Why You Should Write When There’s No Time

If you don’t write when you don’t have time for it, you won’t write when you do have time for it.” ― Katerina Stoykova Klemer

When I became busy with college, I didn’t like this quote. First of all, as a homeschooled high schooler I’d had plenty of time to write, and write I did. Poems, novels, far-fetched tales of adventure in Africa, and letters—so many letters. Take that, Katerina. I wrote even when I had time.

Then college started. I valued grades over words on the page. All of a sudden, college ended and a career began. I start to see that I’ll never have time to write, at least not in the foreseeable future. What’s a writer to do?

Write when there’s no time. Up to 15 minutes of creative free-writing a day, just to get words on the page and a blog post out. I’ve finally learned that practice makes better, no matter how much raw talent you do or don’t have. Through practice, you can better understand your craft and yourself. No practice, and you’re a seed without soil.

I’ve noticed something interesting about writing when there’s no time. Katerina’s right. After a busy weekday, it’s easier for me to write than on a free weekend. The pressure is a motivator. And, against all indications to the contrary, writers aren’t hermits. A big part of the job is spending time out in the world with other people, interacting with them, exchanging ideas, getting to know the readers.

Even when there’s no time, if you want to write, write. For five minutes. Maybe just ten words. If you love it like I do, this will be enough. It’ll remind you what writing’s like. And if you ever get the time to write more, you’ll be ready.

Discovering Your Career

It can take years of adult life before an individual realizes what they’re really good at. Years! Since I’ll be applying to graduate programs in a number of months, I’m inclined to speed up that process.

I’ve found that passionate interest can be very hard to tell from practical talent, and when pursuing a career, talent (more than passion) is what counts. Passion is a prerequisite to talent, and acts as the necessary motivation to devote time and effort toward an activity. However, the presence of passion doesn’t necessarily indicate the presence of skill.

Take for instance my three years of competition in speech and debate. What got me started in the league was my passionate interest in oral interpretation, a form of storytelling and acting. I also experimented with debate out of curiousity. As the years went by, my interps never ranked very highly (though I loved performing them). Debating, however, was another story—I consistently ranked higher as my skill level rose. Despite my own bias towards interp, dispassionate panels of judges helped me realize where my strongest talent existed.

The ingredients of speedy self-discovery seem to be experience, second opinions, and (to a lesser degree) contemplation. When all these components come together, it’s hard to ignore the boundaries separating talent from pure passion.

Choose Your Future – Now!

What would you say if someone asked you to choose what you want to do with the next phase of your life?

The question has been posed to me, in multiple forms, a lot recently. It’s pretty unnerving. The reason is that I’ve decided to graduate a year early from undergraduate college, and have suddenly put myself on the fast track to the future.

Where do you want to go? What do you want to do?”

Answering that question is key to finding appropriate graduate schools. It needs to be answered so I can form the right kind of future for myself—one I’ll enjoy and thrive in. What if I answer incorrectly? What if I just don’t know?

Thinking back to when I first entered college as a freshman, I had little idea what I wanted to do. I knew what I liked—writing and video—and went from there. I’ve learned about the intricacies of these two professional fields . . . but not enough to be able to see the future.

Perhaps I’d do well to remember that finding a good course or a school that fits is a lot like finding a friend or romantic partner. There’s more than one good fit available, and no place or person is perfect. Experimentation is key to finding out what you really like . . . so whatever career I settle on for the future, I better start today.

What do Grades Really Measure?

Everyone knows that getting high grades is getting good grades. A high grade is supposed to show that you really understand the material in an academic course. It’s supposed to reflect your intelligence, or your talent, or both.

These are not what grades really measure. Talent and intelligence and understanding all help in getting good grades, to be sure—but they’re not fully necessary.

Academic grades measure dedication. Without dedication—the will to go to class, stay on top of assignments, and struggle through the challenges—Einstein would fail at physics.

I’m finishing a tough course right now. Calculus II, and we’re doing infinite series, which are perplexing to me. I have little talent nor mathematical intelligence (I only imitate math, I don’t create), and I often feel like a Chinese Room when it comes to math problems. I would be doomed if grades didn’t reflect dedication.

I am dedicated. Up until recently, I wondered whether willpower could make up for lack of talent and interest. It can—to an extent. And I wondered whether I could succeed by willpower alone in a subject that doesn’t come naturally to me, or whether I’m bound by fate and genetics to do what I’m good at and interested in.

This weekend, I accidentally convinced myself that there’s no substitute for passion. I had two things on my mind: Tuesday’s math test, and a video for film history that was due a week later. What did I do? I spent 17 hours editing video, and 3 hours struggling with math.

The difference between these two activities was passion. When you’re passionate about something and actually want to do it, you end up giving it more of yourself—even your spare time. And putting in all those hours is what it takes to become a master. So I don’t think I could ever be that successful in a subject I’m not passionate about or talented in. The fire just isn’t there.

A lot of college and growing up seems to be about finding the place you fit in the world—that little niche where you’re talented, passionate, and better than most other people at doing what you do. A grade can help you find out what you’re good at. We’re all naturally dedicated to something or other, and when you find what you’re interested in, you tend to notice a change of focus—away from trying to motivate yourself just to do the homework, and more towards building a beautiful final product, be it a movie, a program, or a thoughtful new idea.

The Day I Became a Videographer

In my freshman year, I was a camera operator for the TV Club. When we put on a talent show in the auditorium, I got a better than front-row seat, hiding behind the giant 80’s TV camera with my heals hanging off the stage, trying to keep its bulk from rolling off and smashing to the floor two feet below. That show was one of the greatest highlights of my college career.

Too soon, the TV club fizzled. The student president was deeply interested in television production and transferred out, and no one took his place. I’ve occasionally wondered about transferring—I’m a video and writing person at a polytechnic institute—but never thought about it that seriously.

This is why. I believe that if I’m really serious about my profession, I’ll be able to pursue it almost anywhere. Transferring to a school with more video classes would be pointless for me, because if I’m not able to drum up video business right here, I’m just not that serious about it.

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. – Theodore Roosevelt

One month ago, I wandered into Career Services, just to see what opportunities awaited discovery there. I had a conversation with the director, and said I was interested in videography. He asked what type. I said I did documentaries. Then the director told me about his idea for an informational video series about Career Services—how to do business interviews, resume-writing, and internship preparation. He showed me many video examples of what he wanted, and said maybe I could be his summer intern. I set out to make a professional video demo, to get this job.

One month (28.5 hours) later, my demo was ready for viewing. I made sure that it was high-quality. The Career Services director loved it! This summer I’ll have my first videography job, and be one step closer to a dream career. And none of it would have happened if I didn’t walk through that door a month ago and say I did videography.

“If you are going to be a writer there is nothing I can say to stop you; if you’re not going to be a writer nothing I can say will help you.” -James Baldwin

Videography and writing aren’t classes you take, they’re crafts you do. Be a go-getter. Get yourself noticed. More often than we think, we have everything we need right where we are to be who we want to be.

Your Ideal Imaginary Career

Two vexing questions torment most college students sooner or later. They are: What’s the best career for me? And how will I get paid for it?

I’m wondering about these things more and more as I approach the end of my sophomore year. I hear a lot about the virtues of practicality—searching out a job that will pay and actually exists. This is surely important, but as I see it, I still have two years of relative freedom to pinpoint the career I really want, whether or not it pays and/or exists. Call me idealistic, ’cause I am. But this approach is practical too—the more I know about myself, what I like and what I’m good at, the more I’ll be able to communicate who I am and what I do to others and find the most appropriate career for me. If it’s not perfect, that’s okay. But it’s well worth my time to hunt down that ideal career now when I can, before I get too distracted, so that later I’ll be able to find the closest thing that actually does pay and exist.

The question remains, How do I find my ideal (if imaginary) career? The answer is this: listen. Be aware of yourself and your innate feelings about different subjects and activities. Notice how your feelings change in different environments—are you motivated to do this thing on your own, or only when competing against other people? (I’m very motivated to do mathematics in a classroom setting, but the motivation suddenly and completely disappears when I’m on my own.) What is it about this subject that keeps you engaged?

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” -Elie Wiesel

You want to find a subject that you care deeply about, and that means you’ll experience a variety of emotions toward it. Sometimes the activities you’re best at and most interested in can be the most frustrating, but that happens naturally. It’s much easier to hate a family member than a stranger. Just make sure that your ideal career is something you really and deeply want, not something you only want to want. It’s a subtle difference, but if you start doing what you think you want to do now, the truth will emerge soon enough.

Search out, hunt down, and find your ideal career. If it’s imaginary, call it a goal. It’ll give you something to work towards, and half the challenge is knowing what your goal is. The key is finding something that you care about.

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